Rob Dauster

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Duke’s stunning loss on Sunday proved one thing: The Blue Devils were flawed all along

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After everything that Duke had been through this season, between the injuries and the trips and the back surgeries, what did the Blue Devils in, what sent them back to Durham after the first weekend of the NCAA tournament, were the issues we all knew they had back in October.

And we all should have seen it coming.

Sunday’s second round loss wasn’t the result of an internal power struggle over whose team this is. It wasn’t the result of a lack of leadership. It wasn’t due to slow starts or missed time or freshmen inexperience.

Duke lost, quite simply, because their roster is — was — flawed, and the individual talent amongst their ranks was not enough to overcome it.

Duke didn’t get the stops that they needed to get, and the lack of a natural point guard on their roster was never more evident than when facing the athleticism, physicality and pressure provided by South Carolina, one of the nation’s elite defensive teams. The No. 7 seed Gamecocks scored 65 second half points and second-seeded Duke committed 18 turnovers in an 88-81 loss in Greenville in the second round of the NCAA tournament.

The lack of a true point guard on the roster is not something that really had hurt Duke all that often the season, and it reached the point where that issue no longer seemed like a talking point with this team. There were times where their offense would get bogged down, like in each of the final three ACC tournament games that they played, but eventually Duke’s talent would take over. Head coach Mike Krzyzewski, at times, would opt for the ‘Do Him!’ offense: Instead of calling a set play, he’d get the ball into Jayson Tatum’s hands, or Luke Kennard’s hands, or Grayson Allen’s hands, and just let them go.

When there are three guys on your roster that can create a good shot out of nothing, sometimes the best thing a coach can do is to get out of their way and let them work.

That’s how Duke made all those crazy second half comebacks last week.

But that didn’t work against South Carolina. For the first time all season, Duke ran into a team whose perimeter players were good enough defensively that this ‘offense’ was never going to be effective. Allen finished with 20 points, but he was 5-for-13 from the floor and, playing as the primary ball-handler, finished with two assists and three turnovers. Tatum had 15 points and shot 6-for-12 from the field, but he had five turnovers and never looked comfortable going one-on-one, where he may be the best isolation scorer in the country. Kennard made one shot before fouling out.

“[South Carolina] played a heck of a game,” Krzyzewski said after the game. “That was the toughest defense we’ve played all year. Very physical.”

And without the presence of a true point guard on the roster, Duke didn’t really have another option, because whether they were facing South Carolina’s man-to-man or their matchup zone, running sets wasn’t working.

The bigger issue, however, was probably on the defensive end of the floor, where South Carolina scored 65 second half points, a higher total than the Gamecocks managed in nine games this season. They shot 71.4 percent from the floor in the second half, hitting 4-for-5 from three and 21-for-23 from the foul line. They made 18 of their first 24 shots in the second half.

Duke’s defense, which has been much maligned all year long, lived up to the precedent.

It didn’t hurt, either, that South Carolina was playing in front of a raucous, partisan crowd. The game was in Greenville, S.C., meaning that there wasn’t a shortage of Gamecock fans in the building. Once it became clear that South Carolina was in this thing, the fans wearing Garnet and Black were joined by those in Carolina Blue in rooting for the Blue Devils to bow out early.

And once the tide started to turn, once the crowd in Greenville started to get behind South Carolina, everyone watching on TV could see them start to feed off of that energy.

If Krzyzewski wasn’t happy about the NCAA’s decision to move the first round out of North Carolina before the weekend, I can’t imagine the angry phone voice mails Dan Gavitt is going to get from him tonight.

But I digress.

This weekend was, in a way, a perfectly fitting ending for Duke’s season. Every time we thought they were back, they’d go and lose to N.C. State or Syracuse. When we thought it was time to pull the plug on the hype train, they’d find a way to win games they didn’t have any business winning.

And when we all thought the East Region opened up for Duke after No. 1 overall seed Villanova got dropped by Wisconsin, the Blue Devils got steamrolled by a team that lost six of their last nine games before the start of the tournament. They gave up 88 points to a team that scored 86 points in a four-overtime home loss in February. They gave up 65 second half points to a team that scored fewer than that in ten games this season, winning five of them.

They couldn’t get stops when they needed to get stops.

They couldn’t run offense when they needed to run offense.

So while the legacy this team is going to leave is one of ‘What could have been?’, that’s probably wrong, because this team was less of an enigma than we realized.

They were super-talented, but Coach K had himself a flawed roster, one that lacked a defensive backbone and a true point guard.

Because of that, they were a team that we — I — overrated all along.

Gregg Marshall’s wife escorted out of arena after Shockers loss

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INDIANAPOLIS (AP) A security guard asked the wife of Wichita State coach Gregg Marshall to leave the lower bowl of Bankers Life Fieldhouse after she started loudly cursing shortly after Sunday’s 65-62 loss to Kentucky in the NCAA Tournament.

A police officer was eventually called and followed Lynn Marshall up the steps. She later was taken back to the playing level on an elevator so she could attend her husband’s news conference.

NCAA spokesman David Worlock says it is standard procedure for the wife of a coach to be escorted to the press conference but it is usually done by school officials.

Lynn Marshall remained in the stands about 10 minutes after the final buzzer. She at first consoled fans and family members of the team’s players. But then she started shouting loudly about the calls made during the game. Eventually, the people around coaxed her to leave and the police officer followed.

Team spokesman Bryan Holmgren said the team was unaware of the situation and could not comment.

No. 7 South Carolina’s offensive outburst sends No. 2 Duke packing

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Duke is back … on campus.

The No. 2 seed Blue Devils became the second victim of No. 7 seed South Carolina’s home court advantage, losing 88-81 as the Gamecocks continued their insane offensive explosion during this tournament.

And I’m not exaggerating when I say that.

South Carolina’s issue throughout the season, particularly down the stretch, was that they just were not able to score. They ranked 136th nationally in offensive efficiency. Their effective field goal percentage this season, including Friday’s 93-point outburst against Marquette, was 47.1 percent, which was good for 307th nationally. The Gamecocks lost six of their last nine games prior to the start of the NCAA tournament, and in five of those six losses, South Carolina scored less than 1.00 points-per-possession, including a four-overtime loss against Alabama where they managed all of 86 points.

If those numbers are a lot for you, this is really: South Carolina is an elite defensive team that had their shot at an SEC regular season title done in by the fact that they, quite simply, could not score.

Then they put up 93 points on Marquette in the first round of the tournament.

Then they put up 88 points on Duke, including a ridiculous 65 points in the second half. There were ten games this season where South Carolina didn’t manage to score more 65 points, and they won five of them.

But that still doesn’t really tell the whole story. South Carolina shot 71.4 percent from the floor in the second half, making 18 of their first 24 shots. Their effective field goal percentage was 85.7 percent. They shot 21-for-23 from the free throw line, a crisp 91.3 percent for a team that made just 69.2 percent of their free throws on the season.

It was incredible, it was unpredictable and it’s exactly the kind of performance that the Gamecocks needed to make a statement.

Because here’s the truth: this team guards well enough to win a national title. They really do. And if they are going to score the way that they scored this weekend, South Carolina there’s no reason that Frank Martin’s club can’t find their way through what’s left of the East Region and get to a Final Four.

VIDEO: Tyler Dorsey’s three saves No. 3 Oregon vs. No. 11 Rhode Island

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Oregon was down by as many as 11 points in the second half, but the Ducks, who were led by 27 points from Tyler Dorsey, came storming back.

It’s fitting, then, that Dorsey was the man that hit the game-winning shot:

Dorsey has been on fire over the course of the last two weeks. After putting up just a single point in the final game of the regular season for Oregon, Dorsey has scored at least 21 points in each of Oregon’s five games during March Madness, the three Pqc-12 tournament games and both games in the first weekend of the NCAA tournament.

And it was Dorsey who helped dig the No. 3 seed Ducks out of a hole on Sunday night.

No. 11 seed Rhode Island was more than up for the challenge, as they used a 27-8 run to turn an eight-point first half deficit into an 11-point second half lead. The star during that stretch was Indiana transfer Stanford Robinson, who scored 13 of his 21 points in the first half and was the spark for that massive run. Jared Terrell (15 points, six assists) and E.C. Mathews (13 points) made big plays in the second half to keep the Ducks at bay, but after taking a 72-68 lead with under two minutes left, the Rams would not score again.

With the win, Oregon advances to the Sweet 16 for the second straight season, where they will face No. 7 seed Michigan, who has somehow turned into something of a Cinderella pick despite being pretty damn good.

NCAA Tournament Sunday Recap: Louisville, Duke get upset, North Carolina, Kentucky survive

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Saturday gave us two of the best games of the tournament, with No. 8 Wisconsin upsetting No. 1 Villanova and No. 5 Iowa State erasing a 19-point second half deficit only to give the game right back to No. 4 Purdue.

Sunday hasn’t disappointed either, as the day was chock-full of upsets, dogfights, highlights and last-second shots.

THINGS YOU NEED TO KNOW

No. 2 Duke is heading home. The Blue Devils got run out of Greenville by No. 7 South Carolina, as the Gamecocks scored 65 second half points in an 88-81 win on Sunday night. It was a fitting ending for a team loaded with talent that was never quite able to put it all together, as they were more or less punked by a tougher, more physical South Carolina team in what amounted to a road game.

The best game of the day was the nightcap in Indianapolis, as No. 2 Kentucky avoided a late-game collapse and locked up No. 10 Wichita State on the final two possessions of the game. There was so much to love about this game, from the Wichita State revenge factor to the battle between De’Aaron Fox and Landry Shamet to the way that Gregg Marshall schemed Malik Monk into a limited role. What was even better was that the game came down to a final possession, and while it was a low-scoring, defensive slugfest, it was a hell of a game to watch. Defense doesn’t have to be ugly.

The ride isn’t over yet for No. 7 Michigan, as the Wolverines came from behind to beat No. 2 Louisville and get to the Sweet 16. The most impressive part of the win is that Michigan did it while star point guard Derrick Walton Jr., who has ben one of the best players in the country over the course of the last six weeks, finished with just 10 points on 3-for-13 shooting. The Wolverines were involved in a plane crash earlier this month, and ever since then, the narrative that this is a Team of Destiny has ben bandied about. That should stop, because the Wolverines aren’t a Cinderella. They’re just damn good.

With the loss, the ACC — the ‘best conference in the history of conferences’ —  is now down to just two teams left in this tournament, No. 1 seed North Carolina and No. 2 seed Duke, while the Big Ten — which was maligned all year long — has three teams in the Sweet 16, including the two teams that beat No. 1 Villanova and No. 2 Louisville.

The team that Michigan will play in the next round, No. 3 seed Oregon, came very close to getting upset as well. The Ducks erased an 11-point second half deficit, knocking off No. 11 Rhode Island thanks to a Tyler Dorsey three with 36 seconds left in the game. URI had a couple of shots to tie the game on the final possession, but they couldn’t connect.

No one in the tournament has been more impressive throughout the first weekend than No. 1 seed Kansas, who pulled away from No. 9 Michigan State down the stretch and ended up sending the Fighting Tom Izzos home with a 20-point loss.

No. 1 seed North Carolina was not impressive, however, as the Tar Heels blew a double-digit lead and very nearly lost to No. 8 seed Arkansas on Sunday evening. The Tar Heels were down 65-60 with three minutes left, but used some sterling defense and a 12-0 run down the stretch to pull away with the win. The question with this team is defense and toughness, and while that was something of an issue late in the first half and early in the second half, the Tar Heels made the plays they needed to make down the stretch to win it.

Terry Maston and Johnathan Motley combined for 38 points and 19 boards as No. 3 seed Baylor survived an upset bid from No. 11 seed USC to get back to the Sweet 16 for the fourth time under Scott Drew and the first time since 2014. And while No. 3 seed UCLA struggled in the first half, Lonzo Ball did all the things that his Daddy keeps telling us he can do in the second half and carried the Bruins past No. 6 Cincinnati.

SATURDAY’S BEST

Tyler Dorsey, Oregon: Dorsey not only scored 27 points on 9-for-10 shooting against Rhode Island, but he had five boards, three assists and two steals, in addition to, you know, a game-winning jumper.

Moe Wagner, Michigan: The German important scored 26 points on 11-for-14 shooting as the Wolverines knocked off No. 2 seed Louisville to get to the Sweet 16. Just don’t call them the ‘Team of Destiny’.

Josh Jackson, Kansas: Jackson had a team-high 23 points as the Jayhawks beat No. 9 seed Michigan State.

No. 1 Kansas completes dominant first weekend run with win over No. 9 Michigan State

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Josh Jackson had 23 points. Frank Mason III went for 20 points and five assists. Devonte’ Graham had 18 points, four assists and four big threes.

And with that, the Jayhawks are headed to the Sweet 16 with an emphatic, statement win over Tom Izzo and the No. 9 seed Michigan State Spartans, 90-70.

Izzo is one of college basketball’s greatest and most brilliant tacticians, proof being his 21-4 record, entering Sunday, in the second game of a weekend in NCAA tournament, and Sparty got blitzed. With the exception of a couple of Michigan State spurts in the second half, Kansas was more or less in control of this thing after a run late in the first half put them up by 11.

The final eight minutes was all Kansas, as the Jayhawks just ran away from Michigan State. Highlight reel dunks, careening drives from Mason, alley-oops, dagger threes from Graham.

No team in college basketball will be heading into the Sweet 16 with a more impressive, more dominant weekend than Kansas.

And it comes at the perfect time, because Kansas is going to have a fight on their hands in the Sweet 16. The Jayhawks will face off with No. 4 seed Purdue and first-team all-american Caleb Swanigan, who is the second-biggest low-post scorer Purdue has. Kansas? They have one big man worth his size in Landen Lucas. It’s going to take quite an effort from Kansas to slow down that group on the interior, and, at the very least, they are going to have to lean heavily on that core of perimeter stars to make Purdue pay for playing big.

That’s a concern for Kansas.

But Purdue has to be concerned, as well.

Because Kansas may be the best team in the country, and I’m not sure they’ve had a better two-game stretch than they did this weekend.